This may still be the view from my front porch:
But at the conference I went to in Park City this weekend, this was the view from the balcony at the cabin we stayed in:
Can you believe all that snow in OCTOBER? The beginning of October, no less? It was crazy. But chilly or not, the conference itself was amazing, as conferences always are. There is nothing like hanging out with a bunch of other people who love writing every bit as much as you do!
One of my favorite parts of the conference was the first night, when John Brown (of Servant of a Dark God fame) did a fabulous presentation right after dinner. (He put up a link to the .pdf of his presentation "Story Lessons from the Hunger Games" on his website, if you want to check it out.)
We all want our characters to be sympathetic, right? Of course the key to making a character sympathetic is to make them likeable, interesting, good, and to give them hardships and danger. It doesn't have to always be physical danger-- danger can be a threat to any kind of happiness.
He said that rooting for a character is more than just having sympathy for a character. They can't just be likeable and interesting and good and have hardships and danger. They have to also be active and have a chance at winning. Sometimes a character only reacts, or waits for others to tell them what to do. We may like the character just fine, but that's not enough to make us really root for them. Our characters have to be proactive. They have to DO things. They have to make choices and act on those choices. Even if they make a wrong choice, even if they lead others into a wrong choice, we root for them if they are actively trying to solve the problem.
My other favorite quote of the night: Your reader doesn't want to know what WILL happen. They want to know and worry about what MIGHT happen.
And he's right! It's the MIGHT happen that gets us every single time.